Ivory Coast 0-0 Zambia (Zambia win 8-7 on penalties)
African Cup of Nations 12 February 2012, Stade d’Angondjé
The African Nations Cup Final of 2012 was between Zambia and Ivory Coast. It was the last year the tournament would take place in an ‘even number’ year.
Ivory Coast were overwhelming favourites to win the match. They had won the tournament before in 1992 and regularly reached the latter stages. The class of 2012 had players like Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers, Gervinho, Cheik Tiote and Solomon Kalou.
They were all key players at clubs near the top of the English Premier League and were household names in Europe.
‘Golden Generation’ of Ivorian football
Between them they had won league titles in England, Spain, France, Holland, Greece and Belgium. They also had several domestic trophies between them and European Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup medals courtesy of Yaya Toure.
They were known as the ‘Golden Generation of Ivorian footballers and the medal haul of the squad left you in no doubt that this was a team of winners
Zambian side had no superstars
By contrast the Zambains had never won the competition although they had reached the latter stages a number of times and twice been runners up. Only two of their starting eleven played for a European club – Emmanuel Mayuka, who played for Swiss side BSC Young Boys, and Chisamba Lungu, of Russian club FC Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast.
It didn’t seem as though they had a chance against a team filled with players from Europe’s elite clubs.
It was an emotional night for the Zambians and it wasn’t just because they had reached the final of Africa’s greatest football competition. The poignant memory of the deaths of their predecessors was in the air.
Tragedy in Gabon, 1993
In 1993, the Zambian National Football Team had died in a plane crash in Gabon. The plane they had been flying in had been out of service for five months and test flights days before it was due to fly showed there were several defects.
The flight went ahead regardless and one of the engines caught fire shortly after taking off from Libreville Airport. The pilot, who was suffering from fatigue, shut down the wrong engine and the plane lost all its power. It fell into the water 500 yards offshore. Everybody on the plane including 18 players, the manager and coaching staff were killed.
The 2012 African Cup of Nations was jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. All of Zambia’s games prior to the final had been in Equatorial Guinea. The final was at the Stade d’Angondjé in Libreville, Gabon. It was the first time the Zambian Football team had been back since the tragedy of 1993.
There was a sense that destiny might be on the side of the Zambians but they would have to overcome a fabulous group of players if they were to lift the trophy for the first time.